GRAMMY Boss Addresses Racism Claims After Beyonce Snubs: 'I Don't Think There is a Race Problem at All'
By Jennifer Drysdale
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Race wasn't a factor in Beyoncé's Album of the Year loss to Adele at this year's GRAMMYs -- at least according to Recording Academy President Neil Portnow.
Though public outcry followed Beyoncé's loss (the singer was the most nominated artist this year with nine nods, but only came out with two wins), Portnow told Pitchfork that the GRAMMYs doesn't have a "race problem," and doesn't need to take steps to usher in more diverse winners in the future.
"No, I don't think there's a race problem at all," he said. "Remember, this is a peer-voted award. So when we say the GRAMMYs, it's not a corporate entity. It's the 14,000 members of the Academy."
The 14,000 members of the Academy may have voted for Adele's win on Sunday, but critics were quick to point out that Album of the Year has been given to white winners for nearly a decade straight, since Herbie Hancock took home the award in 2008.
"We don't, as musicians, in my humble opinion, listen to music based on gender or race or ethnicity. When you go to vote on a piece of music -- at least the way that I approach it is -- you almost put a blindfold on and you listen," Portnow continued, adding that the Recording Academy doesn't need to follow in the Academy Awards' footsteps of ushering in more diversity after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy last year.
"We don't have that kind of an issue in that same fashion," he said. "But we are always working on increasing diversity in membership, whether it’s ethnicity, gender, genre, or age. In order to maintain our relevance, we have to be refreshing all the time and we have to be doing that across the board."
Among those upset with Beyonce's Album of the Year loss include Frank Ocean (who declined to submit his album Blonde for submission, telling The New York Times that the Recording Academy "doesn't seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from"), Beyoncé's sister, Solange Knowles, and even Adele (who broke her award in half to share with the "Formation" singer.
"My view is, like, 'What the f**k does she have to do to win Album of the Year?'" Adele told reporters backstage after her big win. "The GRAMMYs are very traditional, but I just thought this year would be the year that they would kind of go with the tide."